(Video) Subject Analysis: Centering Historical Lives in Contemporary Archives

INFO Staff - November 29, 2023

Dorothy Berry discusses marginalized voices in contemporary archives during CAFe Speaker Series


Inaugural Digital Curator for the National Museum of African American History and Culture Dorothy Berry gave a presentation Nov. 1 about centering marginalized voices and experiences in historical collections. 

The presentation, part of the College of Information Studies (INFO) Center for Archival Futures Speaker Series, explored multiple arguments and perspectives to create an open discussion on how and who archives serve. Berry discussed how the archival profession has focused on amorphous “community” engagement and “reparative description” without clarity about who is in relevant communities. 

Berry started the presentation by giving background on herself and her family. Her work has primarily approached the question of discoverability through the lens of archival description, digital collection development and digital storytelling. 

“My family has been a studied one in particular because we’ve ended to keep things,” Berry said. “If I wasn’t an archivist, I might say that I’m descended from archivists.”

Berry included multiple historical examples of this practice, including hand-written envelopes, grave markers and photographs. 

“I am from a part of the country that alienates me,” Berry said. “I am from a place where being Black is so rarefied that there are students and faculty whose work is studying my kin and their neighbors.”

Watch the full presentation below.